Stage 1: Meetings
During the semester, Spires holds weekly meetings during which members read and grade written submissions. The submissions are shown to the group anonymously, the process of which is detailed in a section below. Generally, members read submissions quietly to themselves, after which they grade each submission on a scale of one to five (including half-steps) and mark their assessment on a scantron sheet. Once multiple members have read one piece, a discussion regarding its relative merits and flaws may ensue. Members may also choose to read aloud a piece they wish to discuss with the group, or to read aloud and comment on a particular line or section.
Stage 2: Lit trial
Lit trial is a semesterly event in which members of Spires determine the contents of the forthcoming issue of the magazine. Lit Trial takes place on a weekend day when members can devote a large amount of time to the cause. The event generally lasts around eight hours. For the first few hours, members continue to read the submitted works as they have in meetings, the goal of which is to ensure that at least 3 members have read each submission. Once it seems that the bulk of submissions have been read, an editor will read out the number and name of each piece to poll the number of members (present and not) who have read it. If less than three members have read a submission, it is set aside to ensure it is subsequently read by additional members.
Once all submissions have been read by at least 3 people, an editor will call to move to the second stage of the trial, whereby each member of the group will name the submissions they believe should move on to the next stage of consideration. The scantron sheets of members not present at lit trial are consulted to find additional submissions worthy of moving on to the next round of evaluation. At this stage of the process, any submissions that have been read by three members but that are not nominated for further evaluation are eliminated from the review process.
In general, about 25-40 written submissions reach this final stage of the review process. A short additional reading period ensues where these submissions are passed around to the group to ensure the widest possible readership. Subsequently, each of the remaining submissions is discussed in depth as a group. Post-discussion, each submission is laid into three categories: those definitely accepted into the magazine, those still on the fence, and those likely not accepted. Once the group has discussed all the top submissions individually, the categories are reviewed, and discussions of specific pieces may reignite until the group settles on their final decisions. The final amount of submissions accepted into any issue of the magazine is not a fixed number; rather, the staff will choose to accept all submissions that are deemed worthy of publication.
Additionally, if the volume of submissions for a semester is particularly high, the staff may decide to implement an intermediate stage of review where submissions will be eliminated from consideration before lit trial. At this point, submissions will be removed if they fit the following criteria:
- The submission has been read by 3 or more members of Spires
- No member has rated the piece higher than a 2.5.
This criteria is meant to be lenient; for example, if five people have voted a piece as a 1 (the lowest grade), but one member has voted it a 3.5, that piece would still move on to the next stage of review.
Spires hosts one art trial each semester. Once members have individually viewed and considered each artistic submission, the submissions are presented again to the group one by one, and members are invited to comment on each work’s relative merits and shortcomings. Based on the discussion that ensues, submissions are gradually narrowed down until the group decides on the artistic pieces they choose to accept into the magazine. At this point, the discussion turns to pairing each piece with a section of the magazine – the cover, front inside cover, back inside cover, back cover, and inside color art spread. As budgetary restrictions limit the amount of color pages that Spires can print, a total of eight artistic submissions are usually accepted into each issue.